Alka seltzer bubbling out of a plastic volcano. A hard-boiled egg sucked through the mouth of a Coke bottle. Hands-on science experiments certainly beat reading from a textbook. Watching lava boil over in front of their eyes sparks children’s imaginations and creates curious minds.
That’s the concept behind the annual Abu Dhabi Science Festival, returning from 9th to 18th November with a slew of workshops, shows, activities and school tours for an anticipated 17,000 youngsters.
Now in its seventh year, the festival is all about promoting the subjects of science, technology, engineering and maths (STEM) among students in a bid to steer them into relevant industries to create a strong future workforce.
But far from conducting career talks and boring lectures, the festival is all about having fun, getting your hands messy and, most importantly, being innovative.
“If you look at the overall government direction, it’s all focused on innovation,” explains Engr Sanad Humaid Ahmed, vice chairman of the innovation committee at the Department of Education and Knowledge, organiser of the festival.
“Why is this important for education? Because students will eventually head these industrial sectors and if they don’t have innovation during the course of their education, then they won’t be able to produce once they graduate and go to the labour market.”
That’s where the science festival comes in, working in tandem with the national curriculum.
Helping to inspire innovation, local companies including NYUAD, Creative Robotics, Al Sadeem Astronomy and The New England Center for Children will offer workshops and sessions.
The festival also features shows run by university students billed as science communicators, who attended the festival in previous years and are returning to be part of the innovation themselves in a bid to prove that it’s no longer nerdy to be a science geek.
“The science festival contributes and participates in the government’s efforts to develop a process of human capital that will focus on STEM,” Sanad says.
“This is what the market needs right now: to search for the positions that they need to hire people in; there isn’t enough labour supply when it comes to STEM.
“I’m an engineer myself; I went to college for four years to study civil engineering. I think the concept now is, go for STEM; you’re not a geek, on the contrary you are smart, you’re participating in building a good labour market. Things have definitely changed.”
Just like the government’s vision, the science festival has developed with the times, growing year on year and turning its attention to current issues. This year, aside from taking up a bigger amount of space, the festival will feature 71 workshops that tackle topics like robotics, renewable energy and space.
Highlights include a Waterlight Graffiti installation, solar-powered colour park, coral workshop, introduction to coding session and the returning Ministry of Science Live! show.
“The concept keeps evolving,” Sanad adds. “We’re always inventing new ideas; the shows we make, we want to make sure that they’re not boring and that the factor of fun is always involved.
“We always try to keep it in line with where the government is heading in terms of strategy and national agenda and try to keep up.
“Next year we will focus on artificial intelligence as this is the new direction now; we’ll try to introduce the idea in a way that a six-year-old can start to consider artificial intelligence and how it can contribute to the wellbeing of the UAE.”
Need to know:
What: Abu Dhabi Science Festival
Where: Khalifa Park and Al Ain Zoo
When: 9th-18th Nov, times vary
Tickets: AED 40 at adsftickets.com
Contact: abudhabisciencefestival.ae or download the free Abu Dhabi Science Festival mobile app
WORDS Rachael Perrett